Shopping for the music lover in the family? For those who still like their music in a holdable product, here are some gifts that your favorite rock, country, pop and hip-hop fans would probably like to unwrap this holiday season:
The holiday season is always good to the rock/pop fan. It's a time when many fans can count on landing the kind of record sets they might not buy for themselves -- we're talking about the special edition sets and multi-CD packs. Here are five worth considering for your shopping list:
"Graceland 25th Anniversary Edition CD/DVD," Paul Simon (Columbia): This is a great way to revisit one of the most memorable pop records of the '80s, which produced such great songs as "Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes" and "You Can Call Me Al." This two-disc set includes the remastered original album, five bonus tracks and much more. ($15.98)
"The Essential Jefferson Airplane/Jefferson Starship/Starship" (RCA): Having trouble separating your Airplane from your Starship -- and remembering what incarnation of that San Francisco-spawned band did what song? We don't blame you, since this group has one of the most complicated histories in all of rock. But it doesn't really matter here -- this two-disc set collects many of the best tracks from the numerous Airplane/Starship lineups. Thank goodness. We just want to blast "Volunteers." ($14.99)
"Grateful Dead: So Glad You Made It" (Rhino): If it's holiday time, there must be new Grateful Dead products for fans to devour. This two-disc set is an insightful look into later-era Dead, offering up 20 cuts from the group's spring '90 tour. The collection finds the San Francisco Bay Area band jamming through such favorites as "Scarlet Begonias," "Estimated Prophet" and "Playing in the Band." ($19.98)
"The Essential Mariah Carey" (Columbia): Mariah Carey's first decade on Columbia Records (1990-1999) was her best, and here's the proof. This two-disc collection features 28 tracks -- half of which, amazingly, hit No. 1 on the charts. Included in the mix are such all-time fan favorites as "Love Takes Time," "Dreamlover," "Hero" and "One Sweet Day." ($13.94)
"The Doors Live at the Bowl '68" (Rhino): The ultimate L.A. band was in legendary form during this hometown show at the lovely Hollywood Bowl, held on the evening after Independence Day in 1968. You want fireworks? You'll find them here as the one-and-only Jim Morrison and crew light up the night with such classics as "Five to One," "Hello, I Love You" and "Spanish Caravan." ($18.98)
Hip-hop had the strongest year, of any musical genre, in 2012. So many great hip-hop albums came out this year. Here are five that hip-hop fans would surely enjoy unwrapping this holiday season:
"Life Is Good," Nas (Def Jam): The rapper is in absolute top form on this 14-song disc, which ranks among the best efforts in his legendary catalog. He's slinging rhymes with such precision and power while reminding hip-hop fans why they cared about Nas in the first place. This is a strong contender for album of the year -- and I'm not just talking hip-hop.
"Most of My Heroes Still Don't Appear on No Stamp," Public Enemy (Slam Jamz): If you haven't checked in with these all-time greats in years, now's the time to correct that situation and reacquaint yourself with the immortal Chuck D, who might well be the finest rapper to ever spit into a microphone. If nothing else, it will help you remember that Flava Flav once had a thriving career outside of the reality TV business.
"Food & Liquor II: The Great American Rap Album Pt. 1," Lupe Fiasco (Atlantic): There is definite truth in advertising -- Fiasco's latest is indeed a "Great American Rap Album." Of course, we expect nothing less from this Chicago rapper, who has delivered the goods on each of his four records. A second part is in the works.
"R.A.P. Music," Killer Mike (Williams Street): Killer Mike is killer on the mic -- and people are finally taking notice. This studio album, the rapper's sixth overall, is drawing rave reviews and showing up on numerous "best of the year" lists. It's politically charged, powerful and potent -- and truly deserving of every hip-hop fan's time.
"Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded," Nicki Minaj (Young Money): Are you sick of her yet? Minaj seems to be everywhere at once -- which is a neat trick, but also threatens overexposure. Still, this woman can rap, and her second album is another worthy outing.
I'll play it safe here, and go with mostly big names. That makes sense -- since no genre embraces its current stars quite like country.
"Chief," Eric Church (EMI): The North Carolina native is the current king of "Outlaw Country," making music that reminds old-school fans of the likes of Waylon and Hank Jr. All three of Church's discs are knockouts, but the most recent ("Chief") is his real breakthrough effort. It hit No. 1 on both the country and pop charts and helped transform Church into one of the genre's hottest stars.
"Blown Away," Carrie Underwood (Arista): The former "American Idol" champ remains on a hot streak with her fourth studio album, which topped the Billboard 200 and (thus far) produced two Top 10 country songs. Underwood's powerhouse vocals on this disc have "Blown Away" both critics and fans.
"Punching Bag," Josh Turner (MCA): The pride of Hannah, S.C., still possesses one of the best voices in all of country music. It's Grand Canyon deep, and equally effective on big ballads and rowdy honky-tonk numbers. He wears it well on his fifth studio album, "Punching Bag," which (true to its name) has been a major hit with country fans.
"Night Train," Jason Aldean (Broken Bow): There's just no stopping this Georgia cowboy, who has quickly become arguably the biggest name in country music. He's just released his fifth studio album, "Night Train," which is sure to top the holiday season wish lists of many country fans. Of note, "Night Train" features one really tantalizing collaboration: Aldean, Luke Bryan and Eric Church combining forces on "The Only Way I Know."
"3 Pears," Dwight Yoakam (Warner Bros): OK, I can't let the "kids" have all the fun. Make sure to also check out the latest from this legendary country crooner, who always has a few new tricks under his cowboy hat.
Follow Jim Harrington at http://twitter.com/jimthecritic, www.facebook.com/jim.bayareanews and http://blogs.mercurynews.com/aei/category/concerts.